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Ken Ham’s ark is going down, going down, going down…

by Donald Prothero, Jun 17 2014
The allosaur "Ebenezer" with "geologist" Andrew Snelling, Ken Ham, and racist Michael Peroutka, the donor

The allosaur “Ebenezer” with “geologist” Andrew Snelling, Ken Ham, and racist Michael Peroutka, the donor

There’s a sucker born every minute.

—Attributed to P.T. Barnum

The crazy story of Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis organization and their ambitious plans keeps getting stranger and stranger. Just a few weeks ago, Ham crowed about having a real Allosaurus skeleton (nicknamed Ebenezer) on display in his Creation “Museum”—a sad loss of an important specimen to science. Not only will it have no sound scientific data to accompany it, but instead it’s going to have the weird pseudoscience of creationist “flood geology” used to interpret it, and provides the creationists with something to brag about. The Creation “Museum” is having their resident “flood geologist” Andrew Snelling study the specimen—even though he doesn’t have any training in paleontology, doesn’t know one bone from another, and obtained his only legitimate training in uranium geology. As blogger Artiofab discovered, the collection was done on a ranch in Colorado by a bunch of creationist students and home-schoolers, and no one with legitimate training in paleontology, taphonomy or sedimentary geology involved or collecting proper data—just “flood geologists” with their distorted view of the geologic record.

As blogger Artiofab commented:

As you can see from photographs of Ebenezer, this specimen no longer has its original preservation; each skeletal element has been prepared out of matrix, presumably during the more than ten years that its private owners had access to it. Have samples of the matrix been saved for future geochemical work on the depositional environment of Ebenezer? If not, then this data is gone, and Ebenezer is devoid of environmental data.Without information from the Creation “Museum”, I have no way of knowing how data-deficient Ebenezer is. Ebenezer could have field notes, photographs of the excavation, and rock matrix samples stored away somewhere. If Ebenezer has these things, then Ebenezer is useful to science. If Ebenezer does not, then Ebenezer is useless scientifically.

Even sadder, the specimen was bought with the backing of Michael Peroutka and the Peroutka Foundation, a notorious racist white supremacist organization, which Ham has not repudiated. Instead, it feeds Ham’s excessive “dino envy”. In Ham’s own words:

While evolutionists use dinosaurs more than anything to promote their worldview, especially to young students, our museum uses dinosaurs to help tell the account of history according to the Bible.For decades I’ve walked through many leading secular museums, like the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and have seen their impressive dinosaur skeletons, but they were used for evolution. Now we have one of that class for our museum, and it will help us defend the book of Genesis and expose the scientific problems with evolution.

Back in 2010, Ham promised to build a huge $172 million “Ark Encounter” theme park (complete with a full-sized ark replica) in Williamstown, Kentucky, near his Creation “Museum”.  Ham managed to get the Commonwealth of Kentucky to promise $40 million in tax incentives, $2 in new roads to reach this remote location, and he got the city of Williamstown to commit to $62 million in municipal bonds for his project, plus a 75% property tax break. Altogether, Ham got various public entities to commit over $100 million in taxpayers’ dollars to aid his supposedly $172 million investment in the Ark Park. But that’s not the whole story. As reported by Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

It seems Ham’s ever-changing timeline has finally caught up with him. He said in January 2011 that work would begin on the Ark Park that spring; then in May of that year, AiG said groundbreaking would be over the summer; in June, AiG said construction would begin in August; and by early August 2011, AiG still had not broken ground but promised that it would happen “in the next few months. Then in late August 2011, AiG bumped the timetable way back, saying groundbreaking would begin in the spring of 2012. That did not happen, either. Louisville’s LEO Weekly reported last week that the large tax incentive package promised to the Ark Park back in May 2011 by Kentucky’s Tourism Cabinet came with one little catch: an expiration date. The agreement says that AiG can receive a 25 percent tax rebate on the cost of construction once the park opens, provided construction began by May 2014. The discount would be capped at $43 million. Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the Tourism Cabinet, told LEO Weekly that Ark Encounter quietly withdrew its old application for a $172 million project on March 28 and instead submitted a $73 million proposal. If that application is approved, and if it is built within the allotted timeframe, that would mean AiG is eligible for $18.25 million in tax incentives, LEO Weekly said. But the shrinking tax package doesn’t appear to be Ham’s only problem. In April, the Cincinnati Enquirerreported that the local road improvements needed to handle all the traffic that will supposedly rush to Ark Encounter (if it ever opens) will be pushed back to 2017. That’s a bit of a problem for Ham, who last claimed that the park would open in the summer of 2016. Perhaps he wants park visitors to have an authentic Bible experience by walking or riding camels to see the ark.    There is also some mystery surrounding the $62 million in municipal bonds that supposedly rescued Ham’s project. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported in January that while $26.5 million in bonds had been sold, the city needed to sell an additional $29 million by Feb. 6 or else those who already bought bonds would be able to collect on their investment immediately. The city would not say exactly how much money was raised, the Courier-Journal reported in late February, but AiG’s website claims the bonds actually yielded $73 million. AiG also claims it has raised $15 million on its own. Despite these setbacks, Ham presses on. His latest ploy appears to be keeping up the hoax that the Ark Park is under construction. In February, he said groundbreaking would begin in May. On May 1, AiG hosted a “groundbreaking ceremony” at the site where the park is supposed to be built, but the “groundbreaking” consisted of a handful of men in suits using wooden mallets to hammer wooden pegs into wooden boards. This all took place inside an auditorium, which doesn’t look much like a theme park. (You can watch this exciting video here, but be warned – it’s over 40 minutes long.) It is now June, and it remains unclear whether or not construction has actually started on Ark Encounter. AiG’s website says its “construction management team” is still soliciting bids from contractors, suggesting that no real progress will be made anytime soon. Misguided Kentucky lawmakers promised Ham piles of cash starting in 2010 because they believed Ark Encounter would eventually bring in tourists and create jobs. It’s been almost four years, and AiG hasn’t generated a single dollar or job for Kentucky. Ham will surely keep his con going for as long as he can, but Kentucky has no reason to stick with this sinking ship. In February Ham proclaimed, “Let’s build the ark.” Let him build it if he can, but with money AiG raises on its own. It’s long past time for Kentucky to pull the plug on this boat to nowhere, and we hope it finally will.

So the strange saga of the Ark Park continues. Back when it was launched, grandiose and extravagant promises were made, and they set and bragged about impossible fundraising goals. But late last year it came out that Ham and his organization were losing money at the Creation “Museum” (thanks to sagging attendance after 5 years) and using junk bonds to make the financing work. Then they bragged that the debate with Bill Nye had helped them raise the necessary money—but there has been no independent accounting to see what this financial house of cards really has in assets. Now the groundbreaking has been postponed indefinitely—and it looks like it will never happen at all. Meanwhile, Kentucky may soon be off the hook,  since Ham’s group missed the May 31 deadline for groundbreaking to allow them to receive state tax breaks and infrastructure. I’m sure the con man Ham will continue to lead people on, but since his junk bonds have no guarantees, all the investors will be stuck with nothing. However, if he does have a lot of his financing tied to mortgaging his Creation “Museum,” it could bring the whole house of cards crashing down.Whatever the true financial strength of Answers in Genesis, the Ark Park is dead in the water and sinking fast.

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39 Responses to “Ken Ham’s ark is going down, going down, going down…”

  1. Starskeptic says:

    Ebenezer is a trophy – it ceased being a scientific specimen some time ago.

  2. Trimegistus says:

    Mr. Prothero’s creationist-bashing got old a long time ago, and now his vicarious gloating over other people’s “victories” is looking more and more petty.

    Instead of saving us from the Jesus Menace, how about turning your debunking powers to the really dangerous crackpots? Like the anti-GMO activists trying to doom millions to malnutrition? Or the anti-nuclear activists blocking efforts to reduce carbon emissions? Or the antivaxers?

    Oh, wait — those are all _liberal_ crackpots. Can’t criticize them. Must be loyal to the Movement. Only crackpots who don’t vote the way you do get debunked.

    Since when did being a skeptic turn into being a Democratic Party attack dog/lapdog?

    • Matthew Herron says:

      Trimegistus, your criticism boils down to ‘why don’t you blog about what I want you to blog about, instead of what you want to blog about.’ How about if Dr. Prothero blogs about whatever he wants to? I’m happy to be kept up to date on creationist crackpots trying to scam state governments. If you feel passionately that anti-GMO and anti-nuclear need debunking, you’re free to do so yourself (and I’d be interested to read your blog if you did!).
      (BTW, Dr. Prothero has blogged about antivaxers, on January 22nd of this year).

      • Shell Bush says:

        And also, there are other blogs devoted to science and political issues, such as Science Based Medicine, where such topics would be more appropriate. If those are the issues you relate to, then go where the action is, dude.

        If you’re here and getting mad about the topic, then as Matt says you have a personal agenda that does not align with what is going on here and unfortunately it is not your call on what topics the AUTHOR of the blog shall tackle. Your decision to remain here indicates you wish to adopt an antagonistic facade; why people feel the need to do so is always so interesting to me. Such a waste of time and effort.

    • BobM says:

      Prothero is a geologist. He speaking to his area of expertise. If you want anti-vax stuff go here: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/ – it’s not as if there isn’t a lot of it about.

    • YoRpFiSh says:

      I enjoyed your temper tantrum.

      Anything else to cry about or are you done?

    • Roland says:

      This is essentially like getting on a bus to downtown and then complaining that it doesn’t go to the suburbs just because that’s where you wanted to go. If you don’t like the content of this blog, you are free to close your browser, or read a different blog.

    • nico says:

      Troll, obvious troll

    • Chris says:

      I consider myself a person with liberal opinions and I criticize every one of those crackpots (Anti-vaxers, anti-GMO and anti-nuclear)every chance I have. What I’m trying to say is that generalizing is baaad mmmk. And yes the anti-GMO is a liberal crackpot (and maybe the antinuclear too) but the antivaxer one is almost completely conservative stupidity.

    • Kipp Swanson says:

      Intellectual vandals like Ken Ham and his ilk will bring our country to its knees if they are able to tear down science. We need scientists who understand science. If we can’t keep up, other countries that don’t have their head up their ass will pass us by and we will find ourselves in a third world country.

    • xenubarb says:

      Your teabags are showing…people in the anti-GMO, anti-nuclear, anti-“antivaxxers” have science on their side. Hence the ‘anti’ stance. You just sound kinda butthurt.

    • Jason Lane says:

      I’m just wondering why it is that tax payer dollars could be used at all in this venture on the simple grounds of seperation of church and state. If there is an argument for this funding then there is, I believe, an argument to be made that churches should pay taxes on money they bring in. I don’t see how the church can have the best of both worlds and not have to give anything back. Is there anyone on either side of this issue that can better explain what appears to amount to be an enormous inconsistancy here?

      • Trevor Zandi says:

        Law is shaped by public opinion, which is sometimes but not always logical. It is not shaped by logic itself, however.

    • tinyurlDAWTcawm/TeslaWon says:

      Oh. Somebunny doesn’t like seeing Ham bitchslap himself. Aw.

    • Loren Petrich says:

      Trimegistus, it seems to me that you are doing what you claim that the “other side” is doing: looking the other way at the crackpots on your side. That is evident from your objection to slamming creationists.

      It also seems that there is a bit of right-wing political correctness that states that nuclear energy is the only legitimate way to avoid burning fossil fuels. But wind and solar electricity generation are growing technologies, and they are getting more and more competitive with fossil fuels.

  3. Mark Scurry says:

    I’m just thinking of how many museums would love to have a genuine Allosaurus skeleton on display, or even in their collections. That opportunity seems to be gone now.

    The world needs less anti-science conmen around, I can’t see the closure of the Creation theme park as anything but a positive.

    • madscientist says:

      Maybe the bank will sell it cheap? It doesn’t matter that it has no value for scientific investigators. Competent people can reassemble and mount the bones correctly and people can still enjoy a genuine fossil. In fact, losing its scientific value is a good thing because now there is little excuse for not putting the actual fossil on display.

      • GroundPetrel says:

        Eh, it’s more likely that the creationists and the racist dude will dig their feet in and refuse to sell. Best way to MAKE them sell is to somehow remove their funding. If they need money really badly, paying them a few hundred thousand for the skeleton might work, and wouldn’t mean that much in the grand scheme of things.

        Worst-case scenario, they destroy the specimen/trophy just to spite science. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do.

        Best-case scenario is whatever bank they got loans from finally gives up and confiscates everything they have, then auctions it off. Then we can just give a bunch of money straight to a bank instead of dealing with creationist and racist idiots.

  4. Stephen H says:

    Okay, I am really puzzled. Noah, and his three sons, using prehistoric methods, built an ark to carry them and their lady folk to safety. Rumour has it this occurred in less than 120 years (I would bet a lot less than 120 years, maximum).

    Surely Ken Ham and a working bee can get their act together enough to put some beams up within a year or two? Nobody’s stopping them using chainsaws, trucks and other modern conveniences, presumably.

  5. Alan(UK) says:

    “Misguided Kentucky lawmakers promised Ham piles of cash”

    Misguided they may be, but not by Ken Ham. They must know what Ken’s game is and heartily support it. The fact that Ken was pretending that this was a secular venture, gave them the excuse to put piles of taxpayers’ cash into it; no doubt knowing that this had the full support of their constituents.

    Now that Ken has suddenly changed it into a religious venture, to avoid being seen to support Obamacare, one would have thought that the lawmakers of Kentucky would have dropped support for it as the Constitution of the US requires. But somehow they seemed not to notice. Either they still hope to get away with it or, perhaps, they can see which way this project is going and can just wait for it to fade away without having to tell their constituents that they are pulling the plug on it.

    • madscientist says:

      The claim is that they’re misguided, not that they’ve been misled. I guess you could say they’ve been misled at some point in the distant past, and certainly not by Ham but by people like him.

  6. Christopher says:

    “There’s a sucker born every minute”, is actually attributed to David Hannum who was criticizing P.T. Barnum.

  7. Agnostic Xtian says:

    “Ham managed to get the Commonwealth of Kentucky to promise $40 million in tax incentives, $2 in new roads to reach this remote location, and he got the city of Williamstown to commit to $62 million in municipal bonds for his project, plus a 75% property tax break.”

    Wow, $2 in new roads? Where’s he building this Ark Park? In the median of Interstate 75?

    I can’t help but shed a tear when I think of how many challenging and inspiring science books could have been acquired for the libraries of Kentucky’s 1,233 public schools with that $104 million.

  8. Ashamed says:

    Fucking idiot retards

  9. Dan Phelps says:

    I sent tis press release to various media right before Ham unveiled the specimen:

    ***PRESS RELEASE******PRESS RELEASE******PRESS RELEASE***

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: 
    DANIEL J. PHELPS
     (859) 296-4870 Home, (859) 402-4337 Cell
    Edrioasteroid@msn.com

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
    May 22, 2014

    CREATION MUSEUM TO UNVEIL DINOSAUR FOSSIL FROM ORGANIZATION WITH LEADER AFFILIATED WITH HATE GROUP

    The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky is about to unveil a dinosaur fossil donated by an organization whose leader is affiliated with a hate group.

    In October 2013 the Creation Museum, operated by Answers in Genesis, announced the receipt of a partial Allosaurus skeleton and skull from the Elizabeth Streb Peroutka Foundation. The foundation’s leader Michael Peroutka until recently was also a board member of the League of the South, a white supremacist, Neo-Confederate and pro-secessionist organization that has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (See the web links at the end of this press release for documentation.)

    The Creation Museum will be unveiling the specimen this upcoming Memorial Day weekend. The Creation Museum expresses thanks to Michael Peroutka and the Peroutka Foundation on their website (http://creationmuseum.org/whats-here/exhibits/allosaur/):

    “One blessing in getting the allosaur was that the Creation Museum did not seek it out. Michael Peroutka, one of the board members of the Foundation, says that this fossil is a testimony to the creative power of God and also lends evidence to the truth of a worldwide catastrophic flooding of the earth about 4,500 years ago as described in the Bible. In order to ensure that the display of the fossil represented this teaching, the Peroutka Foundation donated the fossil to the Creation Museum.”

    Kentucky geologist and President of the Kentucky Paleontological Society Daniel Phelps is calling for Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum to disavow the hate group, and to donate the fossil to a real natural history museum so that scientific research can be performed on the specimen. 

    Phelps said, “The Creation Museum could use this opportunity to take a stand against a racist, Neo-Confederate, hate group by refusing to take possession of the Allosaurus fossil or by donating it to a real natural history museum so the specimen could be placed in the public trust, especially in the light of AIG’s anti-racist position.”

    Possible museums that could properly curate and research the specimen, according to Phelps, include the Smithsonian (Washington, DC), the American Museum of Natural History (New York), the Field Museum (Chicago), Cincinnati Museum Center, and the Museum of Western Colorado.

    Phelps also points out that the Creation Museum will be incapable of doing scientific research on the specimen.  All employees of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum are obligated to sign an oath of Biblical literalism before employment.  This oath (found here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/about/faith)
    includes statements that make scientific research on the specimen impossible since all conclusions are known before any possible research is undertaken. The Creation Museum’s Statement of Faith even includes this dogmatic statement: 

    “By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record.”

    Answers in Genesis has an in house publication that mimics a scientific journal named Answers Research Journal, but that publication requires author’s conclusions to match AIG’s statement of faith. The following quote from the publication’s instructions to authors illustrates this point:

    “The editor-in-chief will not be afraid to reject a paper if it does not properly satisfy the above criteria or it conflicts with the best interests of AiG as judged by its biblical stand and goals outlined in its statement of faith.”
    (Page 9) http://legacy-cdn-assets.answersingenesis.org/assets/pdf/arj/instructions-to-authors.pdf

    Phelps stated, “Oaths based on religious doctrine are not how modern science is accomplished. The Creation Museum has decided, without doing research, that the dinosaur fossil is evidence of Noah’s Flood which they believe occurred in approximately 2350 BC.” 

    Phelps continues, “Since the Creation Museum doesn’t do scientific research, all the Creation Museum really has done is obtain a nice display trophy. Real museums do research.  The Creation Museum has asserted the specimen to be evidence of Noah’s Flood without any actual research and will not consider other explanations for theological reasons.”

    ______

        Here is more information on Michael Peroutka and his connections to The League of the South:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2013/07/15/michael-peroutka-pledges-resources-of-institute-on-the-constitution-to-league-of-the-south/

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/23/1286860/-RINO-Says-His-Dino-Proves-Noah-s-Flood-Wha-Wha-What

    http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2013/06/michael-peroutka-appointed-to-the-league-of-the-south-board-of-directors/

    YouTube video of Peroutka joining League of the South board: 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vze4fPPkgxY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Michael Peroutka “proud to be a member” of The League of the South:

    http://archive.theamericanview.com/index.php?id=80#__utma=149406063.1866893309.1398790110.1398790110.1398790110.1&__utmb=149406063.1.10.1398790110&__utmc=149406063&__utmx=-&__utmz=149406063.1398790110.1.1.utmcsr=google|utmccn=(organic)|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=%22michael%20peroutka%22&__utmv=-&__utmk=192255274

    The Southern Poverty Law Center names The League of the South a Neo-Confederate hate group here:

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/groups/league-of-the-south

    The Southern Poverty Law Center writes of connections between Peroutka and The League of the South here:
    http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2013/09/18/american-heritage-group-pushes-radical-theocratic-class-on-constitution/
     
    People For the American Way articles on Peroutka’s activities:

     http://www.rightwingwatch.org/category/people/michael-peroutka?page=1

    Michael Peroutka decries Union victory in the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg:

    http://archive.theamericanview.com/index.php?id=270

    Michael Peroutka’s listing in the Encyclopedia of American Loons can be found here:
    http://americanloons.blogspot.com/2014/05/1022-michael-peroutka.html

    -30-

  10. Dan Phelps says:

    At about 22 minutes into this video the Neo-Confederate Michael Peroutka says that he considered reburying the allosaur specimen rathe than have it displayed at a museum that taught that it was million of years old.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PL1v9pqs4w1my9N0Bw9cizv7AZZGdvEg0w&v=7kdE1DJdUCs

  11. ADAS says:

    They pray to a deity which has never been seen.
    They speak of a truth that came through this unseen.
    The proof for this claim comes through faith alone,
    but call the ones who do not follow this philosophy:
    the lost and misguided ones.

    A.D.A.S.

  12. Robert Klauka says:

    I’d like to see the Ark built so we could get some sea trials on it. Oh wait, it’s being built hundreds of miles from any water. Gee that doesn’t make much sense, does it?

  13. Someone says:

    I hope them the best. I hope they get the Ark built and then it gets set on fire but some form and then someone catches them on YouTube praying for a real flood. I may sound rude but I hope to see all of their monies go into this, only to watch them burn down with it.

    If the guy had any sense at all, he’d understand that if there was a God, then he’d already have it built. Mr. Hambone, if you’re reading this, your so-called powerful almighty father just so happens to NOT want you to succeed. You’re not Noah and he never gave you his permission.

  14. Tom says:

    Thanks for the note … no end to the foolishness, and one lie is told, more lies have to told to support the first lie, and that’s what Creationism is. As for the lack of funding, there aren’t that many fundamentalists in the nation, and after seeing the museum once or twice, what’s to see. They can see relics and hear strange sounds in their churches.

  15. Brandon says:

    As a scientist, I was unhappy when I heard alarmist talk that the state was investing millions in this farce. Then I checked into it, the benefit of the bonds and tax break only come to fruition if AiG brings in hundreds of millions in revenue and employs hundreds of full time staff. Something I’m confident will never happen,but if it did, any employer of that size would be eligible for numerous tax based incentives. It’s just business, but it won’t matter.

  16. Neil Brocklehurst says:

    I actually think this ark will do more damage to the creationist cause than help it. As such I want it completed.

    I want to see Ken Ham realise that there is no way on earth it can hold enough animals and keep them in a decent condition. I want to see him realise that there is no way seven people can deal with all the care requirements for the animals.

    So let him finish it. And then point and laugh.

    • WoW says:

      He will just go “ahh yes god only helped those he commanded to do so.” and act like it was all planned. Then assure himself that it is gods will and they will lay back down in their bullshit and roll over again.

  17. Brian Flint says:

    The great flood is nothing but comic book nonsense for it to have rained for forty days enough to have covered the planet to the highest mountain ranges the planet would have been all but obliterated where is the evidence for this. It beats me why anyone even bothers to give them a hearing.

  18. VeganaPiranha says:

    Kentucky does not believe in the separation of church and state. They are a religious institution by their own state constitution, I don’t know how it’s legal.

  19. WoW says:

    The amount of ignorance from these creationists is just staggeringly shocking. They want their lie to be truth so much that they would twist anything to not live in reality. All because of a moronic and childish book, why oh why do they defend a lie, and fight to teach that to children. Lying to the children is about as dumb as you can get, just starts them off on the wrong foot…

  20. Ed Graham says:

    So after the animals got on the boat, God made them all the size of Lego action figures. Then he got Noah drunk and told him he was 900 years old when he woke up. Then the rain dried up and God re-sized all the animals. Then God made a beautiful rainbow from sunlight and water vapor in the air…and God said, “I’ll never do anything that stupid again.”